maandag 22 september 2008

Building a Self-Assembling Stomach-Bot

Linked up: By using magnetic links between capsules, researchers hope to build a snake-like robot that can self-assemble inside a patient’s stomach. Credit: ETH Zurich Technology Review, Monday Sept 22, 2008
Modules that self-assemble inside the stomach could perform more-sophisticated diagnosis and treatment.
Doctors have long sought better ways to examine the workings of the human body without having to cut their patients open. A swallowable camera, little bigger than a normal pill, can already snap pictures as it floats through the stomach and intestine, offering a less invasive way to perform diagnosis than an endoscope or surgery. Now a consortium of European researchers is testing a way to connect several swallowable devices to create a surgical "robot" that would self-assemble inside the stomach.
The Israeli company that developed the first pill cameras, Given Imaging, is currently working on a way to control the movement of its camera capsule from outside the body. Several academic research groups are also looking at ways to let swallowable capsules maneuver themselves by rolling, crawling, or sticking to tissue. With greater control, doctors should be able to better diagnose and possibly even treat illness. But the capabilities of such intestinal devices will still be limited because a capsule must remain small enough to be comfortably swallowed.
A collaboration of researchers from Italy, France, Switzerland, and Spain, called ARES, is testing a way for multiple capsules to automatically snap together. Each would be swallowed individually before assembling into a more complex device once safely in the stomach.
The ultimate goal is for each capsule to perform a different task: one for imaging, one for power, one to take samples, and so on. Once inside the stomach, the capsules would link together, creating a snake-like device that could slide through the intestines, performing more-complex tasks than those performed by a single capsule or several free-floating ones.
Read the whole story >>

Click here to see how researchers conducted the self-assembling modular experiment.
Click here to see a proof of concept of the swallowable modules in action.

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